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Social Affairs: Did they ever go away?

Of the two incidents recently highlighting the behaviour of Chelsea Football Club supporters, the second of them, the Anti-Semitic chants heard when the club played MOL Vidi in Budapest, Hungary, in all probability arose because of the spotlight shone on the first.

Once the beam of publicity falls upon anything, similar or related incidents subsequently tend to leap to the fore of attention. But the first incident, the screams of hatred aimed at Manchester City player Raheem Sterling, actually opens up another can of worms and one that has been completely overshadowed by the immediate and more publicised reaction of the comments that Sterling was on the end of.

First of all, it must be pointed out that Chelsea are not the only football club to have people watching them who indulge in the sort of despicable conduct seen recently. The same kind of ignorance is displayed more or less everywhere, including on the streets of towns and cities. There may be some restraint out on the streets (although nowhere near enough, as we shall see) but why it is considered acceptable to yell abuse at an opposing player at a football match is beyond me. That acceptance is however, found in stadiums up, down and across the UK.

Put another way, bad behaviour at a football match is as prevalent today as it was back in the dark days of the 1970s and early to mid 1980s – although it actually began en-masse, as it were, in the very late 1960s and grew very quickly thereafter. Rather curiously however, although less frequent than in the years mentioned, less well-known and consequently far less publicised, unruly behaviour at football matches has a very long and troublesome history, going back to the early days of the game and is reflected by attitudes toward everyday life and away from football, then and now. Which raises a question: consider again the incident involving Raheem Sterling.

The man at the centre of this has been named as Colin Wing, who has been a follower of Chelsea for many years. How many years? Wing is sixty years old. Let’s spell that out in numbers – 60. He has been alive for six decades and is therefore, old enough to know better. Or at least, he should be. If one is to assume that he is a life-long football enthusiast (I use the term loosely) then he has been following Chelsea for something like fifty years, if he began watching them at the age of ten. He has, in fact, been quoted as saying, ‘I’ve been going to Chelsea for fifty years now.’

Given his age, it is not an unreasonable premise, although of course, he may have begun watching football later, and thus unsupervised by his parents, at let’s say, fifteen. So for at least forty-five years thereafter – which makes the year 1973. A time when hooliganism at football matches was well established. Colin Wing has then, grown up and got older with the attitude he displayed towards Sterling indelibly ingrained within. He has never known anything different, which is why he behaved as he did. The accusation is that he called Sterling, ‘A black ****.’ He says that he did not, but instead called the player, ‘A Manc ****’, Manc being short for Mancunian, a person from Manchester. Actually Raheem Sterling is a Londoner, brought up not far from Wembley Stadium. That of course matters not to Colin Wing. All Wing sees is the colour of the shirt, along with his own short-sighted and now decades-old tribalism. Whether Wing used the word, ‘black’ or ‘Manc’ is irrelevant. It is the attitude that matters and it is an attitude that is as prevalent now as it was in 1973.

The real question however is, how does that translate into the behaviour of people younger than Colin Wing? In my book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’, I raised a point that many people have felt uncomfortable with, which is that the responsibility for what is wrong with UK society today lies with the parents and grandparents of yesterday - like Mr. Wing. Nobody has yet said whether or not Wing is married with children but if he is then he is also old enough to be a grandfather, like so many of his generation. And both his children and his grandchildren (by dint of their upbringing) have been raised over the last forty-five years with the same views as that of Wing himself. Which is why some students today, at both school and University, display the intolerant attitudes that they do.

It is why students have been known to urinate on a war memorial because they have no idea what it means. It is why four young gentlemen from Manchester who, after having a few drinks, thought it would be fun to rip up and destroy a memorial garden dedicated to World War I soldiers, who died fighting for the freedom that these young people now have. Their names by the way, are Lewis Hall, Lewis Hart, Elliot McBurnie and Jordan Taylor.

It is why Jayden Burdern, aged thirteen, Riley Gaffney, age fourteen and his older brother Reigan, age fifteen, were given two-year criminal behaviour orders last week for bringing misery to the town of Congleton, as well as their home town of Crewe, by their anti-social conduct. All three were named and shamed by the Police after they were prosecuted.

It is of course, entirely correct that these three teenagers received some kind of punishment for their behaviour but why were their parents not prosecuted as well? Their parents should be because, as I said in my book, that is where the responsibility lies – with parents and grandparents. Like Colin Wing. He may well have apologised profusely for his words, as he indeed has, but that doesn’t take away the cause.

Society’s hooligans have never gone away. They merely got older and had children who had children.

© Kevan James, 2018.

Comments of a Common Man (see the home page and book reviews page) is available from Amazon at £9.99.

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